Museum Attendant Nikki Anderson probes deeper into a current exhibition at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:
Within the 11 months that I have been working at The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this has probably been the most interesting and thought-provoking art exhibition I have seen here at the museum. In my opinion Steve Gresty’s photography exhibition captures the beauty of the landscape in and around Tunstead Quarry near Buxton.
I was lucky enough to chat to Steve about his work and ask him a few questions about how he became interested in Limestone quarrying as a subject matter for his photography.
Steve first became interested in Limestone quarrying whilst studying for an MA in Film and Photography at Derby University. Influenced by his passion for the American road photography of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, He had been engaged in a photography project focusing on the landscape and topography of major roads and the traffic that travels those routes. He tells me that whilst photographing A6 road through the Derbyshire he became curious about the high number of aggregate lorries and carbonate tankers toing and froing along this stretch of road. He investigated the source of this specialist heavy traffic and unveiled an industrial site on another level! Tunstead Quarry is the largest producer of high purity industrial limestone in Europe with 5.5 milllion tonnes extracted each year.
Steve tells me how he quickly became fascinated in the huge scale of limestone quarrying and how the process unveiled various shrouds of hidden beauty within the man-altered landscape. A reoccurring question that Steve kept asking himself was “why is it that limestone is extracted in such massive quantities?!!!! Within the exhibition, Steve explains this by highlighting our incessant desires for consumer items and conveniences such as building material, glass and food stuffs such as fortified bread and cereal – all products that either contain or utilise pure limestone products within their production. Steve tells me that the reason for using polaroid imagery was that he wanted to reference the throw-away culture we are now accustomed to in this modern age.
Alongside Steve’s polaroid photographs are an amazing collection of stand out photographic works that capture the emotive feelings about this particular subject matter. The journey of the limestone from land to consumer product is well-documented through his photography and demonstrates the four shrouds that the project revealed, from the initial shroud of beauty of the rock itself, the shrouds of human intervention and technology, through to shroud of ‘mother nature’ returning the quiet and peaceful landscape where nature’s colours re-emerge.
I asked Steve “What obstacles did you face whilst photographing in the quarry?”
“Within the processing plants it was extremely dusty and I was in semi-darkness a lot of the time so lighting was tricky. Especially whilst shooting the image ‘Purification’- in that image there was a single fluorescent light in dark area which caused problems with highlights”
“I had to be chaperoned the whole time too due to health and safety because of the large scale explosions and large trucks moving about. Within the processing plants the noise from the large machinery was deafening so we had to wear ear protection. The inherent dust in the atmosphere also caused worrying issues with regard to expensive DSLR cameras”. Steve also talked about the image ‘Conveyance’, which was taken at another quarry. He explains the need to use a fast shutter speed whilst taking this photograph as the rubble was hurtling down the conveyer belt at such speed, it was the only way to capture it so that the moving rock could be seen clearly.
Obstacles aside Steve’s determination and focus enabled him to create this body of work that is both thought-provoking and aesthetically intriguing. ‘Limescape-The Shrouded Aesthetic’, which was captured over a 3 year period, is on display at the Buxton Museum and Art gallery until 16th November. Plan your visit here.